Sunday, July 7, 2019

Communion and Ecclesial Governance

From First Things:
Thompson’s actions provoked misleading responses from the press and even high-profile Catholics. Many described the story as if the archbishop had simply removed the “Catholic” label from the high school—as if the archdiocese were merely some religious corporation unhappy with the abuse of its trademark by an underperforming franchise. But the Church is more than a market of competing ecclesial brands. The controversy between the religious order and the bishop concerns fundamental notions of ecclesiology and the nature of the Church as communio. It concerns the school's connection to the true Body of Christ through its communion with the one “presiding in place of God.”

Too often, modern ecclesiology understands the Church as a kind of social club. But communion is not established merely by the self-identification of the believer. Communion is an act of God’s grace. Grace permits the believer’s union with the Body of Christ and manifests itself in the external unities of faith, of sacraments, and of ecclesial governance. The Code of Canon Law insists that the baptized are in “full communion” with the Church only when they are “joined with Christ in his visible body, through the bonds of profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance.”

In other words, part of our communion with God is found in our visible communion with those who govern the Church, including (and even especially) our diocesan bishop. Central to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council was the reinvigoration of the bishop’s role as teacher, prophet, and ruler in his diocese. The conciliar fathers repeated the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who said that being a diocesan bishop means “presiding in place of God over the flock.” The Council reminded religious orders—even those of pontifical right, like the Jesuits—of their duty to “show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons.” Religious priests make this promise almost word-for-word when they “promise respect and obedience to the diocesan Bishop” in the rite of ordination. (Read more.)

No comments: